Emotions and How They Shape Our World Essay Sample

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Emotions drive our daily lives and are the basis at all critical decisions according to Ekman, who believes facial expressions are “windows” to our emotions. Ekman began studying emotion in 1960 basing his study off of Margaret Meade, in that emotions are a cultural product and Darwin, who had the right ideas but no facts on emotions evolving. Darwin said “emotions are universal to all species and also can be observed in other animals, they are not unique to humans.” Ekman began research traveling to different cultures and ended up in New Guinea studying primitive culture to see if they had the same emotions as “us”. This primitive culture has never had contact with the outside world, they were something like a “stone age” in, they have never seen their reflections, do not have a written language and have never been in contact with outsides.

Ekman used a method of study with children on this primitive culture because children do not have a written language, so he showed them different pictures portraying specific emotions and used English language, pigeon language, and the primitive language to say what that person is feeling. Through this study Ekman found that the morphology, or the facial configuration, expressed is the same for all people regardless of culture. Ekman believes culture shapes triggers of emotions, such as we have to be taught how to hate, because anger is learned. Also, culture teaches us how to manage expression, in which we establish habits and emotions become an automatic response. In addition, languages are words for representing emotions. Though if a word does not exist in the culture then does the emotion not exist? According to Ekman, no. The emotion is still there, but there is no word to express it.

Ekman believes there are seven basic emotions, which are snapshot expressions and can be seen at a distance. These emotions are: anger, fear, sadness, disgust, contempt, thirteen enjoyable emotions, and surprise. While on the other hand there are emotions with no expression such as: guilt, shame, envy, embarrassment, and familiar compassion, which according to Ekman is “built into us” with no unique expression. Also, Ekman talks of how we can feel an emotion by moving the muscles on our face, “make the movement, emotion will follow”. Finally, Ekman talks on his view of compassion. In which he believes the world will only survive if it develops a sense of global compassion, where we care for all people on this earth and their well-being. Though unfortunately, global compassion is not built into most of us, unlike familiar compassion.

Next Nussbaum is introduced in her view of the philosophical approach toward emotions, which is trying to theorize and define emotions. Emotions are viewed as disruptive and there is thought and role inside an emotion. In western philosophical tradition, there are two views, stoic which views all emotion involve caring to much about things out of control while a more gentle view by Aristotle, believes emotions can be excessive but sometimes are right on target and can be important, such as justice or right vs. wrong. Nussbam believes emotions are thoughts about what is important not physiological response and that emotions go into all ethical reasoning, including legal and political reasoning. Nussbam also talks of Aristotle mentioning the social benefits of emotions, meaning which emotion is right in a particular circumstance, are the facts right.

Nussbam’s example was disgust, which is a problematic emotion and is unreliable because it is always projected on a some group of people, being women, or a primitive culture because disgust starts with a deep rooted revoltion at one’s own bodily waste products. . Nussbam begins talking of her view on anger, which is a response to a perceived wrong or harm, and her idea of compassion, which we all have potential for but we feel more towards people we know, and find it hard to express towards other we do not know. Though Nussbam believes we can learn a lot about compassion by studying primates. Towards the end of Nussbam’s discussion she is asked about her view on emotional manipulation, which is used by multiple leaders to construct emotions throughout a following. Nussbam gave the example of Martin Luther King and his multiple speeches and also talks of how they are used in advertising and political campaigns.

Finally Moisi and Reddy are introduced together, going back in forth in discussion. Moisi talks of fear, humiliation and hope, in that hope translate with direction relation of confidence, while fear and humiliation lack confidence. In this discussion Moisi relates which emotion with different cultures in the world and says geography of emotion is as important as physical geography itself. Also Moisi believes actions are motivated by fear and impossible to move, and he gives the example of cholesterol being both good (positive emotions) and bad (negative emotions). Both of these are essential to understand and integrate emotions of others, and in order to do that one has to be self-confident, must believe in one’s identity, and animated in a certain sense of hope.

Reddy is introduced on the topic of emotional regimes, being the official style of ruling groups, meaning they evict a specific emotional reaction to certain situations. Reddy then comes back to talk about 18th century sentimentalism, which believes in the notions of virtue, which are founded on the emotion of pity, benevolence, gratitude, and tenderness. Reddy then discusses emotions being not good for public life and life decisions needing to be made, though they help us make instantaneous responses to complex situations. Overall, Reddy agrees with Moissi and Nussbam and discusses his view on the right emotions occurring with the right people.

After listening to multiple view points, I agree the most with Ekman, in that there are basic, universal emotions experienced by all human beings because there is research done proving this is true. Also, that body language is a huge factor when trying to understand one another in interpersonal communication. Though, I do understand that different cultures portray emotions different as we discussed in class (Class 1/28). I believe it is up to us work on our global compassion like Ekman says, in order for us to understand and care for people and to gain a better understanding of how cultures portray their emotion, because the same idea is there, we just express it differently meaning, we “feel” the emotion or have a specific word for it (Class 1/28).

Though, on the other hand I understand where Nussbam is coming from in that emotions are thoughts of what is important, not the physiological responses and that we may never have the same emotion response because we are not from that culture. Though the disclaimer is we can still appreciate the music, even if we are not from that culture. So I do not entirely agree with Nussbam. In addition, I agree with her example of disgust and It being unreliable in that it’s basis of revoltion (a thought) projected on groups of people but in all it’s entirely, I believe each emotion is unique and different to individuals (Class 1/28). Certain emotions are strongly portrayed in this person being facial expression or thoughts, while the same emotions may not show any signs or be a big deal to another.

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